Holocaust Film to Premiere at Yale

“Witness: Voices from the Holocaust,” a documentary film composed of first-person accounts of the Holocaust, will have its first public preview, free of charge, on Sunday, April 26, 7 p.m. at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall St. Produced and directed by Joshua Greene and Shiva Kumar, the film combines testimony from Holocaust survivors with the reminiscences of partisans, bystanders, members of the Hitler Youth, American prisoners of war held in Nazi concentration camps, and U.S. military personnel who liberated the camps.

“Witness” presents an array of never-before released testimonies preserved at the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies in the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.

A vivid picture of the Nazi era emerges during the course of the film, notes Holocaust scholar Lawrence Langer, who says the film has “a narrative authenticity rarely encountered in the media.” The witnesses decline to sentimentalize or moralize their tale: they do not find any spiritually redeeming message in the Holocaust. Many of the witnesses comment on how, under the conditions they knew, words such as “heroism,” “courage” and “morality” lost their meaning. Those who outlived the disaster comment on the compartmentalized nature of their present lives, balancing their survival against the persistent memory of loss. This dichotomy – “I’m alive,” one witness explains, “but so what?” – is the strength and the challenge of their testimonies.

Sponsored by Yale Hillel’s Mark and Bernice Sobotka Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Endowment, the special screening will be followed by a discussion led by Alan Fortunoff, benefactor of the Video Archive, and by filmmaker Greene, who is an award-winning television film producer.

The production of “Witness” was funded through grants from the Revson, Dorot and Fortunoff Foundations. Mark and Bernice Sobotka, sponsors of this preview, are survivors of Auschwitz who were married in Lodz immediately after the war. They established the Yom Hashoah Endowment at Yale Hillel to mark their 50th wedding anniversary.

Alan Fortunoff is chairman of Fortunoff, a specialty retailer founded 75 years ago by his parents. He has been involved with the Video Archive since 1985. Shiva Kumar, born in New Delhi and educated in England, Egypt and the United States, brings a multicultural perspective to the art of visual storytelling. For 12 years, he has collaborated with Greene to create award-winning programs based on personal narrative.

Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale is home to Yale Hillel and Young Israel House at Yale. It provides religious, cultural, intellectual and social programming for Yale and the greater New Haven Jewish Community.

The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies has pioneered the recording, collection and preservation of videotaped oral testimonies of survivors and witnesses, comprising more than 3,800 testimonies, recorded in cooperation with 37 affiliate projects. For reservations, or further information, please call Joseph Slifka Center at (203) 432-1134.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325